On behalf of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), I write to urge your help in educating college students about the six referendum questions on the ballot in the upcoming election. As you may know, on November 5th, New Yorkers will go to the polls and, in addition to voting for the candidates of their choice, will vote on six proposals to change the New York State Constitution.
NYPIRG has no position on whether these questions should be approved or disapproved, but we do know that getting young adults engaged in voting is important in developing long-term voting involvement. If individuals have been motivated to get to the polls once, they are more likely to return. So, getting young people to vote early could be key to raising a new generation of voters.
In addition, young people are a major subset of the electorate and their voices matter. 46 million young people ages 18-29 years old are eligible to vote (that makes up 21% of all eligible voters in the U.S.), while 39 million seniors are eligible to vote. While registration rates lag behind older age groups’ rates, young people who are registered turn out in high numbers—very close to the rate of older voters. In the 2008 election, 84% of youth 18-29 who were registered to vote cast a ballot.
Having information about how, when and where to vote can help young people be and feel prepared to vote. Involving young people in election-related learning, activities, and discussion can also have an impact on their entire household, increasing the likelihood that others in the household will vote. In immigrant communities, for example, young voters may be easier to reach, are more likely to speak English (cutting down translation costs), and may be the most effective messengers within their communities.
To that end, NYPIRG has developed a Voters Guide to help young voters – as well as other voters – better understand the constitutional questions that will be on this year’s ballot. The Guide provides the questions as they will appear on the ballot, State-approved abstracts, as well as arguments in support of and in opposition to the changes. In addition, the Guide helps voters identify the location of their polling places.
As you know, local races do not always garner the buzz that national, and even statewide, elections receive. This can mean that students are less aware of or engaged in those races. However, this year’s constitutional questions provide an opportunity for engagement since the questions are more recognizable (e.g. “Should New York State allow casino gambling?”).
We urge you to make your students aware of the availability of the Voters Guide by advertising its web address (http://www.nypirg.org/pubs/goodgov/VotersGuide2013FINAL.pdf) in your classes and through social media, as well as during any voter education activities that your college is planning.
If you have any questions, or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. Thank you for your help.